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Monday, 20 December 1993
Page: 5270

Senator CRANE (3.27 p.m.) —I would like to raise a number of points with respect to what has arisen over the last three quarters of an hour of questioning. I will run through them as quickly as I can. I have no doubt that in respect of a mineral development, if it comes down to the fundamentals of extraction of royalties, Senator Margetts would prefer to see a situation where that process stopped mining in total. The situation of state governments negotiating for a royalty level which would allow the economic development of a mine—whether it be mineral sands or what have you—is quite different from the situation of a claim for profit sharing with respect to royalties. At the end of the day, the requirement is that there must be profitability within the company. If the royalties they have to pay are set too high, companies will make a decision not to go ahead. That is a commercial reality. I refer to a speech made quite some time ago—

Senator Margetts —A mining subsidy is what you mean, isn't it?

Senator CRANE —I did not hear that interjection, but I will ignore it anyway. I refer to what Senator Gareth Evans had to say some time ago in response to Senator Chamarette's amendment. In a short speech—unfortunately, Senator Boswell has left the chamber—we heard the best and the worst of Senator Gareth Evans. At one stage he was suggesting that Senator Boswell should go back to school. If that is the case, perhaps Senator Evans, because of inconsistencies in his answers and his avoidance of answers, should go back to kindergarten.

Senator Panizza —Preschool.

Senator CRANE —Preschool, as Senator Panizza said. Is Senator Evans listening to me?

Senator Gareth Evans —I listen to every word you drop, Winston. Go for it.

Senator CRANE —We have heard Senator Evans at his seductive best with the Greens. In fact, in essence Senator Evans said, `I love you dearly, but you'll have to wait till tomorrow'. Then he went through a whole range of processes—

Senator Margetts —I take offence at that and I take offence at the creeping nomenclature that has a sexual connotation. I ask for that remark to be withdrawn.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Margetts, there is no point of order. As somebody else interjected, it might be a point of irritation but it is not a point of order.

Senator Margetts —Is it not, if it is something at which we take offence? The point of order is that I take that form of expression as offensive and sexist, and I would like it to be withdrawn on that basis.

Senator Panizza —On a point of order, Mr Chairman, this morning I brought up this matter of taking offence. People's skins are getting thinner and thinner as we go on towards Christmas.

Senator Collins —I'm not getting thinner and thinner.

Senator Panizza —No, Senator Collins might not be. Seriously though, on the point of order, I do not believe that the remark has to be withdrawn. Of course, Mr Chairman, you will make up your mind, as always, but we are getting on to pretty thin ice if we have to start withdrawing those sorts of things. I think Senator Collins might agree about getting on thin ice.

Senator MacGibbon —If I could take a point of order, there are two very serious points involved here. The principal one is that Senator Crane described as `seductive' Senator Evans's debating manner as directed at the Greens. He did not name any person. It is a perfectly legitimate use of a figure of speech to describe debating language in that way. There is nothing wrong with that at all. It is outrageous to suggest that the full range of the English language is not available to us in this chamber. Secondly, it is grossly wrong for people to get up and take points of order when they do not have the faintest idea of the standing order under which they are protesting.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Given the advice and guidance of the chamber, I think that I am now capable of ruling on the matter. The expression is neither disorderly nor unparliamentary. While it may be a term of endearment which some people do not enjoy, to the extent that it does not fall into either of the former two categories, it is not contrary to standing orders.

Senator CRANE —Thank you, Mr Chairman. I simply make the point that it was not intended to be either. I will leave it at that. Perhaps when I come to the point, Senator Margetts and Senator Chamarette will realise what I am getting at. I will try to put it in other words.

  Senator Evans went over a number of grounds. He said, `Let us look at the future; this might happen', et cetera, and that is on the public record. My question to Senator Evans and Senator Chamarette—and now to Senator Margetts—is this: in view of the explanation given by Senator Evans, how do they reconcile what he said here with the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) in a press release dated 24 November 1993—I can either incorporate or table this—when he said:

I met this morning with several Aboriginal representatives who put forward various proposals for change to the bill. I made it completely clear that a number of these were simply unacceptable.

It is very clear, straightforward language. He went on:

For example, vesting of mineral rights in native title holders and a right of veto over developments on native title lands cannot be accepted.

This is what I wanted to draw out here. In terms of the answer given by Senator Evans, one has to question who is right in regard to what the Prime Minister was talking about—Senator Evans or Mr Keating. There is still an enormous amount of uncertainty surrounding this particular question. Or is it the case that the government has simply changed its mind? That is the matter to be addressed. I cannot think of a more succinct way of putting it than that.